Former referee Mark Halsey fears suicide among colleagues

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Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey believes the pressure on top-flight officials could lead to one of them committing suicide.

The revelation comes from Halsey’s autobiography Added Time, which is being serialised by The Sun.

Halsey believes that more needs to be done in terms of protecting referees from fan abuse, which has increased considerably as a result of social media outlets such as Twitter.

“There is no hiding place on the field and you have to be mentally tough. But it also follows you off the field more and more now and it can destroy you,” Halsey writes.

“I do feel that referees should get more help to cope with the increasing level of mental strain. . . . In my view, given some of the episodes of recent seasons, it will not be long before a referee has a nervous breakdown. . . . I also believe that if we do not do something to help referees with mental health and stress issues, then we could see a suicide.”

Professional referees committing suicide is not a new issue in professional football. In November 2011, Bundesliga referee Babak Rafati was reported to have tried to commit suicide before the kickoff of a match between Cologne and Mainz.

Fortunately, Rafati was found and treated. Speaking on the incident, German Football Association president Theo Zwanziger said: “The pressure in professional sports is unbelievably high. We just don’t manage to bring the right balance into it. No-one should be in such a hopeless situation.”

Two years later and Halsey’s remarks come as a stark reminder of the pressure that professional referees face on a daily basis.